Advocates for gun violence prevention research are creating new allies and figuring out new ways to make their presence known. Bipartisan political leaders, healthcare professionals, and, most recently, the last four Surgeons General, are coming together to overturn the 1996 congressional ban on gun violence research. The ban–in the form of an annual appropriations rider–prevents the allocation of CDC funding toward gun violence research.
“It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation’s public health,” wrote three former surgeons general–Regina Benjamin, Joycelyn Elders, and David Satcher–appointed by Democratic presidents.
Richard Carmona, the only former surgeon general to be appointed by a Republican in the group, penned his own letter to Congress, and echoed their statements. Carmona also noted that without appropriate research “we really have no idea what policies and/or regulation may be needed in order to ensure the public’s safety.”
Earlier this month, more than 100 of the nation’s leading medical and public health organizations representing more than 1 million health professionals across the country urged Congress to end the ban. Their letter was addressed to Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and a bipartisan group of ranking members including Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Doctors for America, a project of the Center for American Progress, has orchestrated much of the effort since Congress renewed the ban on research this past winter.
These calls echo the requests from other members of Congress who recently pushed for dedicated funds for the CDC to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. At least 17 Senators have supported ending the ban, and proposed bicameral legislation with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to fund research at the CDC on gun violence prevention and firearms safety. The legislation calls for $10 million each year for six years.
While requests are being made in Congress, California state legislators are moving to establish a firearm research center in their state. California’s Senate Education Committee approved legislation to establish a Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California.
The bill, SB 1006 is strongly supported by the public health community, law enforcement, gun violence reduction advocates, and a growing list of bipartisan co-authors in the State Legislature. Next, the bill will be heard in the Senate’s Public Safety Committee. Other supporters of the bill include US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Mike Thompson, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and former member of Congress and NRA member Jay Dickey (R-Arkansas), the author of the Dickey Amendment (which first created the ban).
Dickey, along with Mark Rosenberg, the former Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, are not only in support of California’s move to establish a center, but they have been outspoken supporters of ending the ban that they authored 20 years ago.